5 Steps To Easily Estimate The Difficulty And Duration Of A Hike

Before going on a hike, you often wonder how difficult it will be and how long it will take. And that’s perfectly normal. You want to know whether or not you can complete this, or if the hike depending on your present physical condition is too difficult. Hiking time not only indicates the difficulty of the hike, but it also helps you to be organized, not end up overnight, and be able to give a loved one an hour back, for example.

Here are the 5 steps to take (in order) to easily estimate the difficulty and duration of a hike to help you plan for your future nature adventures.

1. Map Out The Hike’s Route

In most circumstances, you should already have a good idea of what it is, in which case you may go forward to step 2.

If you don’t know the way, you should figure it out before continuing. I understand that sometimes the path chosen is determined by the difficulty, but you must start with a route and make alterations later (especially if the route turns out to be too long, too short or too difficult for example).

2. Calculate The Overall Distance And The Total Height Disparities

The overall distance and cumulative height variations are the most important factors in determining the difficulty of a hiking route, but they are not the only ones (we will come back to this in step 5).

In some circumstances, such as with a route collected from a guide or the internet, or if a relative has provided you a GPS track that he or she has recorded, you may easily access this data.

There are numerous methods for calculating the cumulative height differences and overall distance if you simply know the route plan.

By hand – which may be time-consuming and tiresome. We can do this with a string and pins, strips of paper, a curvimeter, or “by eye” in this case.

GPS Apps or software – I generally advocate using apps or software. There is a lot of internet tools that allow you to accomplish this (for example, Openrunner), but you may also use GPS manufacturer software (for example, Basecamp, Land.), especially if you have retrieved a GPS track or others.

3. Assess The Hike’s Difficulty

The next stage is to figure out how much effort it takes for you. Indeed, a 500-meter vertical drop or a 20-kilometer trip does not imply the same difficulties for everyone.

The best (and simplest) method is to compare current data to earlier outputs.

When you have a little experience, you understand the effort that can represent a 1000 m vertical descent or a 15 km run, for example. But what if you don’t yet know?

When you don’t have much experience, it’s best to keep track of the cumulative positive height, cumulative negative elevation, and overall distance each day of hiking – as well as the walking time (without pauses) and how you feel.

Of course, while doing comparisons, attempt to compare hikes that are comparable. Don’t compare it to a trek you took 20 years ago when you were in great shape. Similarly, try to compare similar conditions: running 15 kilometers on a lovely dry route or in the snow is not the same as climbing a mountain carrying a 3 kilogram or 12 kg backpack on your back.

Easily Estimate The Difficulty And Duration Of A Hike

4. Calculate The Length Of The Trek

In terms of assessing difficulty, predicting the duration of a hike necessitates input, because your pace for a 10 km or 500 m rise is not the same as mine or that of another hiker. This is why you must exercise caution when tempted to rely on hiking times provided by signage, guides, or the internet.

We may use our walking speeds on the level, uphill, and downhill for a bit more precision.

Then we split our route into flat, ascents, and descents based on the slope (on an altimetric profile, for example), and give a pace to each part.

5. Identify Additional Difficulties

We’ve seen how to estimate the difficulty and duration of a route using data from height differences and distances, but don’t forget to include additional (non-exhaustive) characteristics like:

  • The terrain – walking on sand, snow, or mud, for example, is substantially more taxing than walking on dry ground;
  • The Trail – “rolling” trail, rough trail, off-trail, and so on);
  • Backpack weight – a few additional kilos in the bag may be felt;
  • Physical state – present physical state and cumulative exhaustion;
  • The slope – Some people prefer steep slopes, while others prefer mild slopes.
  • The route profile – the feeling differs when there is a single rise followed by a single descent or when there is a sequence of tiny climbs and short descents;
  • The other members in the team – unless you don’t need to get them back safe and sound – base it on the slower, less physically fit individual.

The idea is to identify and account for any factors that may make the hike more difficult or longer for you.

In order to accurately estimate this, experience is tough to replace, therefore if you are a bit short (or a lot), your best chance is to plan as accurately as possible

You should also know that you cannot plan everything from home, above your map, or behind your computer and that there will probably be unforeseen events. It’s part of the allure of nature adventures, and preparing ahead of time helps you to be on the safe side.

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